postcards from nebraska

Couldn’t help but notice your car was parked outside the Silo Tavern. By my watch, you were in there a good three hours….”


by ed markowski


May 27


The rain that began falling nine hours ago is

falling faster, thicker, and blacker than a curtain

of tears behind a widow’ s veil. When I roll the

window down, drops as big as quarters tap out an

SOS against the side of my face, just as his voice

blows in.

“Couldn’t help but notice your car was parked outside the Silo Tavern. By my watch, you were

in there a good three hours. Now in and of itself, that might be ok, but, you ran a stop sign

at the corner of Main and Route 30. I’ll need your license, registration, and proof of

insurance. Relax, this won’t take but a minute, then we’ll see just how much you had

to drink.

On a crooked highway, a pleashman lishens

while I reshite the alphabet.


May 28

Just past midnight, the police radio crackles,

a voice cracks, “Hanging from a steel peg in Carney’s barn,

Carney’s saddle, Carney’s hat, and Carney’s son.”


May 29


“We’re a small town, we won’t

lock the cell unless you ask

or make us. We’re kind, but

we can get as mean as we

need to be.”


May 30


A new drunk next door makes it…

3 vagrants

2 drunks

1 car thief

1 check fraud artist


1 one armed bandit.


May 31


Doors locked? A civics class come to learn.

Boys snicker. Girls whisper. Wolves howl,

a snake hisses, lions roar, the teacher’s

been stripped naked, and she doesn’t

even know it.


June 1


On a wall where the sun shines like a stain,

a calendar, compliments of

The Optimists Club.


June 2


“Gunter’s kid got accepted to Berkeley.

Son of a bitch’ll come back softer’n

Susie and redder’n a fuckin’ beet &

Carney’s boy gets buried in his Husker’s

jersey before he ever throws a pitch. I’ll

tell ya somethin’, that’s just about enough

to make a good christian man turn his back

on God.”


June 3


In a dream I dreamnt

i dreamnt i dreamed

i was living in the

smallest chinese box.

June 4


He didn’t do it, he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it,

he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it,

he wasn’t drunk, i wasn’t drunk, but…

here we are.


June 5


“If i’d a wired that blue Volkswagon, i’d be

on a beach in California ’cause the

son of a bitch wunta broke down like them

motherfuckin’ niggermobiles they build

in Detroit.”


June 6


“Pure black coffe to match the color of your souls,”

says the man who brings our breakfast.


June 7


Thunder: “I did time with Charlie Manson

before he made it big.”

Lightning: “I’m fuckin’ Doc Holliday & Ma Barker,

now you did time with them too.”

Rain: “I’m a one armed bandit named Simon,

and Simon says, shut the fuck up.”


June 8


All day long, the vagrants speak fondly

of a boxcar in Fargo.


June 9


The check fraud artist qualifies everything

he says with, “sure as smoke and mirrors.”


June 10


Mop in hand, he reminds the car thief, “If

this was 1877 and you stole somebody’s ride,

we’d a hung your ass last week. Instead, we

gotta feed the likes of you while one of the

finest young men this town ever produced is

buried deeper than a fuckin’ bunch of carrots.

Go figure.”


June 11


“Took the patrol car past her place. Seen

something bright red waving in the breeze

on Missus Kemp’s scarecrow. Got a little

closer, got outta the car, and i’ll be butter

on her bootie, someone tied a long red

balloon between his legs and painted a tit

suckin’ grin on his face.”


June 12


A night train crosses the prairie,

the floor beneath us trembles.


June 13


6 a.m.

A cock crows, our shadows spill out

between the bars.


June 14


“Shined my light on Altmann’s son

and Ghering’s daughter doing the

clover crush behind Big Bev’s Dairy

Dip & Twist. Wish’t I’d had a camera.”


June 15


Jet contrails cross the squares

of a steel screened window.


June 16


“Wimmen is trouble, hell, pussy

ain’t nothin’ but a cell with velvet walls.”


June 17


“Told the driver he’d come in well

under weight, so he donated six

cases of butterfly shrimp to the

department and a hundred dollars

for the Methodist pancake breakfast.”


June 18


“Stole close to ten grand so far with one

fuckin’ arm, goddamned right i’m

proud of myself.”


June 19


“Don’t ever hop a train on the Fargo / Winnipeg

line after Halloween. They find men froze stiff

like sides of beef in them cars every year.”


June 20


“The Merrick County Corn Queen’s six

months gone and Carney Junior ain’t

ever gonna meet Carney the Third.

Word’s goin’ round that’s why

he did it.”


June 21


Morning rain. For three staright weeks,

the taste and texture of powdered eggs.


June 22


A box of eight glazed donuts from Throckmorten’s Bakery

and the metallic clang of the car thief’s leg irons.


June 23


“Ollie Olson’s right hand is out there somewhere

in his cornfield.”


June 24


Something in our bowls

not quite soup.


June 25


The police radio crackles, another voice cracks,

“Three miles east of town on highway 30,

two dead in a head on with a Cottonwood.

Iowa plates ME 4 14 54.”


June 26


“You say the weather was bad so you sought shelter? Well,

that’s good, that’s what common sense dictates. Son, if

you think the weather was bad on May 27th, you’ve never

seen bad weather.

If the weather had been bad on that day, that’s hardly an

excuse to sit in a tavern drinking the night away.

I see here that you’re on your way to an art school in

Boulder, Colorado by way of Detroit. To me that says

you come from hell and your going to hell and by

the looks of you i’d say that’s a good bet.

A short time after you were arrested, one of the finest

young men this twn ever knew took his life. That

young man worked hard, played baseball, honored his

parents and our God. He never did wrong unto


One can’t help but question the ways of this world

when young men like him are taken and society

is left with, if the word men even applies, young

men like yourself and the others who are currently

enjoying our kindness and hospitality.

I’d like to sentence you to six months labor on one

of our farms. That would go a long way toward

knocking some of that big city con man out of your

system. Detroit? Six months on one of our farms

would be an act of mercy. Six months might save

your life. But, i can’t do that.

I hereby order you to pay the following fine…”


June 27


30 days wiser and a thousand bucks lighter,

the feel of cool damp grass underfoot.


Originally published:
Issue Fifty-Eight
June 2010


(illustration: real actual stamps)

Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.


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